Demonstrations for kids

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sgt york
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Demonstrations for kids

Postby sgt york » Tue Feb 24, 2009 4:13 pm UTC

I have been tapped by my kid's science teacher to help out with science night (end of March), and I'm looking for ideas. I've been going through the experiments thread, and there are a few in there that will work well, but it's pretty physics & chemistry heavy. And the schools frown on things that go boom. Besides, given my background, I'm doing a biology based demonstration.

First off, this is elementary school; K-5 (5 - 11yo kids), so I need a variety of things. Things simple and flashy for 6 year-olds and things that won't be boring and childish for 11 year-olds. We're looking at a rolling environment, kids coming in and out freely and joining in the activities and leaving at will. They can spend as long or as short as they like, but there's a balance to strike. Not enough activities and you don't hit every kid with something they'll like. Too many and younger kids get overwhelmed by the choice. I don't know how much space I'll have, but picture a 1st grade classroom. About that big, probably.

I pitched three ideas: DNA, chromatography, and cell biology. The committee liked cell biology. So far, I'm taking oral swabs & staining them with methylene blue to look at them under a scope. I'll have a scale model of a cell with structures labeled, as well as some nice high mags taken of prepared cells. I'm going to have the kids try to identify structures in the cell and count the number of bacteria vs epithelial cells they find (for the grossout factor). Through a contact I have in the histology curriculum at the med school here, I have an array of tissue sections for them to see how cells come together to become tissue. I am trying to compile a time lapse of a macrophage being activated by bacterial products (not easy....hard to track the macrophage at high mag).

Other ideas I have are showing how different cellular processes work; the ratcheting of muscle, possibly neuron summation (I'd need to wire something up for this, though....might be beyond my time and financial constraints, though. Not to mention my engineering capabilities). Anybody have any other ideas?

I have a system for teaching how DNA is instructions for the cell, and there is a fun DNA precipitation experiment; I may do that but I'm reluctant as it was one of the independent projects I pitched.

So, help me out....who has some fun ideas?


P.S. - I know there are a lot of high school students and new undergrads that post here. A big thing in this school is "vertical learning", part of which is exposing kids at 2nd grade to what they might be doing in 7th grade, or 10th grade, or whatever. So, I'd really like to hear from you on this. What cool things did you do or see or hear in elementary school, junior high, and high school that sparked your interest in science? Was there any way that things got presented that turned you off? I'm a bit removed from those days, and emotional memory gets unreliable over time.

Lastly, don't be afraid to go big or over their heads. I know how much the kids can handle (which is usually a LOT more than most adults think), and there is a good science staff at the school to help me tailor it. I can always leave out or simplify ideas that are too much.

TIA

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Plasma Man
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Re: Demonstrations for kids

Postby Plasma Man » Tue Feb 24, 2009 6:18 pm UTC

If you have the time and can get the kids involved before the main event, you could try doing growth plates / swabs. Get hold of some growth medium (soy agar is a good one), then get the kids to swab some surfaces and press the swabs on the plates. Label them, leave them to grow, then see where had the most microorganisms.
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Re: Demonstrations for kids

Postby ExistencialElevator » Tue Feb 24, 2009 6:35 pm UTC

I've done the same thing, what they thought was the best was probably the dust explosion. It's quite easy to do, you need a very fine dust, we used something called nict. Just pour some in your palm, light a match between you fingers, and throw up the nict in the air so it touches the flame, this will cause a fireball.

If that's to dangerous, we also did a soap scerpent (Swedish name translated). Dunno the exact formula, but you need some liquid soap, and two reactive chemicals that produces alot of gas, i think it's hydrogen peroxide(30%) and Potassium iodide. Just mix the tree in a tall glass (dunno what their called in english, a piece tall glass used for precise measuring of liquid). You can probably google it, anyway, it's quite cool to watch, as you get a large soap tower.

Edit: found a link for the scerpent: http://www.using-hydrogen-peroxide.com/ ... paste.html
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wst
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Re: Demonstrations for kids

Postby wst » Wed Feb 25, 2009 7:06 pm UTC

Elephant toothpaste it is.

Demonstrate standing waves with a speaker driver, frequency generator and string. Strobe lights are also cool for this one, but watch out for epilepsy, etc.
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Charlie!
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Re: Demonstrations for kids

Postby Charlie! » Wed Feb 25, 2009 8:15 pm UTC

How about do-it-yourself chromatography with markers and water on paper? Add in a dash of the basic principles of chromatography, maybe encourage kids to identify which dyes are in more than one marker.

Ooh, talking about waves and the doppler effect using something that makes noise on a long string is also fun. Demonstrating the wave nature of sound by making beat frequencies and maybe interference patterns (pointing the two speakers at the audience and ask "raise your hand if the sound is louder with 2 speakers than it was with 1 speaker," then looking at the pattern sounds fun) requires similar equipment.
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justaman
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Re: Demonstrations for kids

Postby justaman » Wed Feb 25, 2009 9:53 pm UTC

How about making some slime or fake vomit. You could also try getting two immiscible liquids (e.g. water and butanol) and put them in a large container on a magnetic stirring plate - always looks cool, especially if you can colour one of the liquids
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justaman
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Re: Demonstrations for kids

Postby justaman » Thu Feb 26, 2009 7:57 pm UTC

Sorry of for double post, just thought of some more while skimming the titles page:

Liquid nitrogen - balloons inflated and dipped in LN2 will shrink due to the gas taking up less volume at lower temps, and re-inflate when warmed up. You can also bang nails into wood with LN2 frozen bananas. Kids love that sort of stuff in my experience.
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Re: Demonstrations for kids

Postby Carnildo » Sat Feb 28, 2009 5:28 am UTC

justaman wrote:Liquid nitrogen - balloons inflated and dipped in LN2 will shrink due to the gas taking up less volume at lower temps, and re-inflate when warmed up. You can also bang nails into wood with LN2 frozen bananas. Kids love that sort of stuff in my experience.


I've got a fragment of a superball that was dipped in liquid nitrogen and then bounced.

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Re: Demonstrations for kids

Postby IHOPancake » Sat Feb 28, 2009 5:42 am UTC

justaman wrote:Liquid nitrogen - balloons inflated and dipped in LN2 will shrink due to the gas taking up less volume at lower temps, and re-inflate when warmed up. You can also bang nails into wood with LN2 frozen bananas. Kids love that sort of stuff in my experience.


In my AP Chem class, we played a little with LN2. We used the nitrogen to get LO2 and stuck a burning piece of wood in and watched it flare up. Also, we dipped goldfish crackers in and ate them, comparing them to a grape which froze.
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Charlie!
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Re: Demonstrations for kids

Postby Charlie! » Sat Feb 28, 2009 8:18 am UTC

IHOPancake wrote:
justaman wrote:Liquid nitrogen - balloons inflated and dipped in LN2 will shrink due to the gas taking up less volume at lower temps, and re-inflate when warmed up. You can also bang nails into wood with LN2 frozen bananas. Kids love that sort of stuff in my experience.


In my AP Chem class, we played a little with LN2. We used the nitrogen to get LO2 and stuck a burning piece of wood in and watched it flare up. Also, we dipped goldfish crackers in and ate them, comparing them to a grape which froze.

How did you use the nitrogen to get liquid oxygen? Oxygen boils at a lower temperature then nitrogen does, making the task a bit complicated...
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justaman
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Re: Demonstrations for kids

Postby justaman » Sun Mar 01, 2009 7:32 pm UTC

Charlie! wrote:How did you use the nitrogen to get liquid oxygen? Oxygen boils at a lower temperature then nitrogen does, making the task a bit complicated...
Schlenk lines do this quite commonly, the secret is to lower the pressure enough and to have a LN2 dewar around the vapour trap.
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Re: Demonstrations for kids

Postby PM 2Ring » Tue Mar 03, 2009 5:16 pm UTC

Meteorswarm wrote:For biology-related experiments, you could do the old celery stalks in dyed water trick, to show how the dye gets carried up the celery, or you could do any number of microscope demonstrations.

Rather than using celery, I suggest cauliflower, as it's easier to see the dye. Plus, it's a fractal. :) For added fun, split the stalk at the base, and put each side in different coloured water, and see where the different colours end up.

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Re: Demonstrations for kids

Postby crowey » Tue Mar 03, 2009 5:21 pm UTC

If you're doing microscopy tradescanthia stamens do really good cytoplasmic streaming that you can see under phase contrast. Similarly looking at live plankton under phase contrast is excellent.

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Re: Demonstrations for kids

Postby yazdi » Thu Mar 05, 2009 3:14 pm UTC

sgt york wrote:I am trying to compile a time lapse of a macrophage being activated by bacterial products (not easy....hard to track the macrophage at high mag).
IIRC, there's such a video on the DVD accompanying Alberts Essential Cell Biology. At least it's included in the German translation.

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Re: Demonstrations for kids

Postby sgt york » Thu Mar 05, 2009 6:09 pm UTC

I don't really want to do a chemistry demo, which most of these seem geared towards doing. Chemistry is not really my field.

At the moment, it looks like I'm getting the kids to stain their own buccal cells. I'm going to get them to figure out what the smaller things are in the stains using educated guesses and proposing experiments; and I'll verbally provide the results of their experiments. Hopefully they'll get it that they're bacteria.

Then I'll get them to count the number of bacteria relative to the number of their own cells for the grossout factor.

yazdi wrote:
sgt york wrote:I am trying to compile a time lapse of a macrophage being activated by bacterial products (not easy....hard to track the macrophage at high mag).
IIRC, there's such a video on the DVD accompanying Alberts Essential Cell Biology. At least it's included in the German translation.
Oh, I'm sure I could find a video. There's a cool one on youtube of a neutrophil chasing and catching a bug...but that's not as much fun.


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